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06/05/2013

Turkey's lady in the red dress identified

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Ceyda Sungur, the lady confronting riot police                  photo by Osman Orsal/Reuters

She quickly became the symbol of Turkey's protests. The photograph of the woman in the red summer dress carrying a white shoulder bag and getting sprayed with tear gas by riot police has been picked up by the protest movement as the emblem of their peaceful struggle against heavy handed state. 

Now the woman has been identified as Ceyda Sungur, an academic in the urban planning department at Istanbul's Technical University, the Guardian reports. 

Urban, secular, middle class Sungur typifies the average Turkish protester demanding more accountability from the moderately Islamist government. She had made the short journey from her office to Gezi park last Tuesday to protest the government's decision to turn the space over to developers and the diggers that were about to bulldoze the park. 

Sungur did not want to discuss with the Guardian her new found fame. The newspaper reported that Turkish media briefly spoke to her last week when she said she was one person in a much larger movement.  "A lot of people no different from me were out protecting the park, defending their rights, defending democracy," she said. "They also got gassed." 

Her colleagues however, were interviewed by the Guardian. 

"There were about 50 people in the park when the police first attacked us [last] Monday," research assistant Eren Kürkcüoglu said. "They stormed in again on Tuesday morning. We went in the afternoon. Ceyda and some friends arrived first. We and other friends followed at 3pm. We found her lying on a bench after the police attacked her. She was trying to get her contact lenses out."

The police brutality provoked more people to take to the streets. What started as a protest against the commercial development of a small park in Istanbul has turned into a movement that is posing a serious threat to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's premiership. 

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour

 

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A true Turkish woman.
All the power to her as she stand unarmed against thugs.

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